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In this article, we explore how Science Center educators and youth collaboratively investigated the characteristics of the space that had made some visitors feel less welcome, and how our collaborative worked together to address the issues identified. By bringing to the forefront youth perspectives of their own lives and histories, youth and adults partnered to examine, critique, and re-design the Science Center and challenge historical representations of science. Specifically, the youth participants led the co-design of a new classroom based on the life and work of Dr. Katherine Johnson, a pioneering mathematician profiled as one of NASA’s “hidden figures,” who calculated the orbital mechanics for the first American in space. The youth participants were also essential to the development of a series of displays and activities about women of color in science. Designing these new features of the Science Center together required the careful development of a new and shared understanding of what the Science Center could be. https://www.astc.org/astc-dimensions/reclaiming-our-science-center-youth-co-design-of-the-dr-katherine-johnson-room/
This study investigates how educators, researchers and youth collaboratively sought to engage in a socio-spatial political project of disrupting and transforming normalized injustices against youth of Color in STEM in their local Science Center. Over the course of a year (and still on-going), educators, researchers and youth worked on a project they named, “Reclaiming the Science Center” because it focused on re-designing the text, images and experiences in differences spaces of the Science Center towards making visible and amplifying the lived lives and wisdom of people of Color and women. Drawing upon conceptual frameworks of social-spatial justice and social practice theories, along with longitudinal critical ethnography, we report on the co-creation of spaces, both discursive and material, for critique and imagination of spatial representation. We also describe how educators centered youth-authored material artifacts toward expanding presence. Implications for working towards social-spatial justice in science centers are discussed.